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    Should Your Write A Column for Free?

    The columnist writes to share information and experiences, become recognized, achieve credibility, possibly become syndicated, and to be paid. Why would you write for free? There are conflicting sentiments about this and each writer must weigh the pros and cons and make their own decision. Writers often are criticized if they offer to write anything for free. However, many find this an ideal way to start getting into print and acquiring credits.


    Pros & Cons of Writing Columns for Free

    Pros:

    • You’ll see your name in print.
    • You'll develop name recognition.
    • This is a way to acquire tear sheets.
    • By writing regularly you'll learn to meet deadlines.
    • Writers reach readers they wouldn't have otherwise.
    • This will force you to write when you might not bother.
    • The editor of the non-paying publication may move to a paying publication and ask you to write there.
    • Eventually you may get paid as you develop a following and the non-paying publication acquires sufficient budget.
    • This is a good way to "test the waters" with your writing and accumulate enough columns for a book.

    Cons:

    • You don't get paid.
    • Some people will claim you're taking payment away from another writer if you write for free. However, generally if this publication can't pay you, they can't afford to pay anyone else.
    • The comment sometimes is made that you won't be considered a credible writer by other editors if they find you write for free. However, the agreement you and your editor have is not a public fact.

    Facts to consider:

    • Don't write for free in a region where you already are getting paid. This is not fair to the paying publication.
    • You may be able to trade for advertising or other service which has value to you.
    • Set a limit on the time you'll write for free.


    My First Column

    My first column was written in exchange for subscriptions of the newspaper sent to family and friends. When I was offered the opportunity to help a newspaper in my hometown get started, by writing a weekly cooking column, I was excited. I'd recently finished a journalism course and was pleased to gain experience in this capacity.

    The editor, also the publisher, said he didn't have the funds to pay me in the beginning. I don't regret doing this because the column was received very favorably by the newspaper’s readers, and I received on-the-job experience finding ideas and meeting a weekly deadline. The editor wanted to use my columns instead of those by a syndicated columnist.

    True to his word, he began paying me after I'd written for several months. He also offered me the opportunity to write a column on antiques and collectibles for which he also paid me.

    Because I got my start with "Country Kitchen" with my hometown newspaper, I've written it for a number of publications for more than forty years. With the experience gained through this column, I've gone on to write many types of columns, publish a manual, "Writing Magazine & Newspaper Columns," and teach online and community education classes in Column Writing.

    Writers must value their time and work, yet be understanding of the position of magazines and newspapers. By developing an understanding of one another’s situations, editors and writers usually can work out equitable arrangements which benefit both.

    Copyright © 2004 Mary Emma Allen

    Mary Emma Allen has written columns on cooking, rural living, quiltmaking, antiques and collectibles, gardening, history, writing, family history, scrapbooking, and children’s writing activities. Visit her web site: http://homepage.fcgnetworks.net/jetent/mea; E-mail: me.allen@juno.com

    The Authentic Self: Journaling Your Joys, Griefs and Everything in Between by Shery Russ



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